In the next segment of our analysis of the Cleveland Indians’ minor league system, I take a look at the bats from each position.
There is some hope for the Tribe’s future in the top three prospects in the farm system—Francisco Lindor, LeVon Washington and Dillon Howard—and pitching is routinely considered a strength for the Tribe.
But looking at the organization’s young bats—this is where things get a little shaky.
Catcher won’t be a need at the MLB level for a while with Carlos Santana firmly entrenched behind the plate, but the minor league depth for the position is still of some concern. Alex Lavisky, the Tribe’s eighth-round pick in 2010 out of high school, looked terrible in his first minor league season. Lavisky managed to hit 13 home runs, but slashed .203/.266/.354 and struck out a staggering 137 times in 117 games.
Chun-Hsiu Chen should be the Triple-A Columbus Clippers’ starting catcher, and could find himself in Cleveland at some point this year if either Lou Marson or Carlos Santana get injured. If Santana ends up getting a large chunk of Matt LaPorta‘s playing time at first, Chen could also find himself splitting time with Marson.
Chen’s defense is average on a good day, but his offense is solid enough for a catcher. He slashed a solid .262/.330/.451 at Double-A Akron last year, while also hitting 16 home runs. But his plate discipline could use some work: 122 strikeouts against only 43 walks is a little concerning for a 23-year-old. Chen doesn’t have enough offense or defensive ability to merit a full-time gig in the majors, but he could be the Kelly Shoppach to Santana’s Victor Martinez one day.
At first base, things are bleak. Jesus Aguilar is the only prospect with any hope of upside, with Beau Mills limping up in second place. The Tribe’s lack of talent here is a big reason why the team is trying so hard to get someone else to take away Matt LaPorta‘s playing time.
Tony Wolters is a guy to watch here. He’s still young (19) but is a true gritty do-it-all type player at shortstop. His relatively small stature will probably force him to switch to second base at some point, but at the very least he could be a solid utility option with some upside.
Third base is another black hole in the Tribe’s farm system with no quality prospects on the horizon. That won’t be too much of an issue with Lonnie Chisenhall now in Cleveland, but it should still be taken into account when assessing the organization.
Finally, there’s the outfield. This could turn out to be a strength or question mark for the Indians going forward. Washington heads the group, while the other big name in the system, Nick Weglarz remains an enigma.
Weglarz was routinely designated as one of Cleveland’s top prospects for years because of his big body, flashy power and ability to draw walks in bunches. He looked like either an above-average power hitting corner outfielder or solid first baseman, but he’s been unable to stay healthy—his injury history is about as long as this article.
Another player to keep an eye on is 18-year-old international signing Luigi Rodriguez. Rodriguez impressed with a .304/.356/.423 slashline this year between Rookie-level and Low-A ball. This is after slashing .301/.403/.461 in the Dominican Summer League in 2010. Rodriguez will never be a power guy, but he does have impressive speed, having swiped 49 bags in the last two years.
The Indians have some minor-league hitters with the potential to be valuable MLB players some day, but the aforementioned players are all far from sure things. Each could contribute to a big league club, but not many of them will develop into regulars. Time and good coaching can change that, but for now there aren’t many blue-chip bats waiting in the wings.
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